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This policy document is part of a response submitted by the Progress Educational Trust (PET) to the Nuffield Council on Bioethics' Consultation on Human Bodies in Medicine and Research.

Is there a difference between compensation for economic losses (such as travelling expenses and actual lost earnings) and compensation/payment for other factors such as time, discomfort or inconvenience?

Yes. Economic losses are more objective, and therefore more easily measurable, than subjective factors such as time, discomfort or inconvenience. However, this is not to say that it is impossible to ascribe a monetary value to discomfort and inconvenience and calculate a flat rate to different forms of gamete donation accordingly. Judges make such calculations every day, in personal injury claims. The introduction of payments for time, inconvenience and discomfort should be seriously considered.

The most recent (eighth) edition of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority's Code of Practice prohibits 'payment of a "flat rate" to all donors (for example, £20 to all sperm donors)'. It also states that 'donors may be reimbursed all reasonable expenses incurred in the UK in connection with donating gametes or embryos (for example a standard-class rail ticket by the most direct route), but not excessive expenses if these would be benefits in themselves', and that 'expenses claimed by donors should be directly linked to the process of donation (for example, the cost of travel to the centre, or the cost of childcare during donation when the donor would normally be caring for the child)'.

The Code of Practice sets a maximum limit on compensation, stating that 'donors may be compensated for loss of earnings (wherever they live) up to a daily maximum of £61.28 but with an overall limit of £250 for each course or cycle of donation'. This figure is too low.

The number of working days in the year (excluding annual leave and sick leave but including weekends and bank holidays) is 260, and if you multiply this by the daily maximum compensation of £61.28 for gamete donors, you get the figure of £15,932.80. The median weekly pay for full-time employees in the UK in April 2009 was £489, equating to £97.80 per day or £25,428 per annum ('2009 annual survey of hours and earnings', Office for National Statistics, 12 November 2009). In other words, if one takes as good coin the claim that payment for gamete donation amounts to 'loss of earnings' compensation, then the maximum payment allowed transpires to be woefully inadequate.